“Rain was everything” during the 2020 growing season, said Jacob Walker of Walker Farms, near Waterloo.
Other producers echoed that assessment as they described this year’s corn and soybean harvest.
“The growing season had really good solar radiation. It had really good heat. The only thing we were missing was rain,” said Kevin Stoy of Stoy Farms, based north of Ashley.
“Quality was real good on the corn and beans this year — yields were down on both of them, due to the drought we had,” said Kevin Custer of Custer Grain Co. in Garrett.
Rainfall was sporadic this year in the wide northeastern Indiana territory covered by Frick Services in Wawaka.
“There were some guys that had bumper crops and some that were below average,” said Chris Brazel, sales agronomist for Frick Services.
“You can be 220 (bushels per acre) in one field and go two miles south and be 170,” Brazel said about corn yields. The spread is larger than usual, he added.
“Northeast Indiana sort of fell short on rain as far as the growing season goes, next to the rest of the state,” said Sarah Delbecq of Brechbill Farms, north of Garrett. “We were consistently, all year long, kind of on the drought monitor.”
“It depends on who got rain, when they got it, the type of soil, when it was planted,” Custer said about yields. “Corn was all over the place, 70 bushels to 200.”
“We saw 60-bushel swings just depending on what got rain and what didn’t,” Walker said. “The late-summer dryness hurt us. We just didn’t get the kernel depth — didn’t put the weight in the kernels.”
Brazel reported corn yields from 150 bushels per acre up to 270 bushels on irrigated ground.
“Our irrigated corn was some of the best we ever raised,” which proves that rain was the only thing missing this season, Stoy said.
Walker said although soybean yields declined along with corn, soybeans held up better through dry weather.
Custer reported soybean crops ranging from 27 to 65 bushels per acre, while Brazel described bean yields with a 40-75 bushel spread.
Still, Stoy rated corn and bean crops as both down 25% for Steuben and DeKalb counties.
Nationwide estimates of a smaller harvest are helping grain prices.
“We’ve recovered to some extent, but it’s still pretty fragile,” Brazel said about prices. “For where we are on the supply side of things, I’d say the markets are pretty strong, all things considered.”
“The main thing — our export program is just unbelievably strong — kind of came out of nowhere,” Stoy said. “Demand is really impressive” for both corn and beans, he added.
Custer reported prices of $4.09 per bushel for corn and $11.70 per bushel for soybeans in the middle of last week.
Looking to 2021, “The No. 1 issue, both pre-election, post-election ... the main thing on everyone’s mind is probably trade,” said Delbecq, who is a past president and district director of the Indiana Corn Growers Association.
“Agriculture always wants more trade,” she said, “We want to keep our trading partners is a No. 1 priority for everyone,” while looking to add more markets.
On a positive note, “We had great fall weather for getting work done,” Walker said. “We got the harvest wrapped up real timely” in the first week of November. “We got a lot of work done on the ground.”
A lot of farmers have finished harvesting in the past week, Stoy said, adding that a farmer’s goal is to be done by Thanksgiving.
“Every farmer does a lot more than harvest,” Stoy added about the favorable mid-November weather, “so there’s a lot of tillage going on and fertilizer spreading, taking advantage of a good window.”